When I was about 12 years old, I went on a month long family road trip across the eastern part of the United States. It was so much fun seeing the different destinations, enjoying the various regional eats, and encountering people of all walks of life. I eagerly tried new things: I made crafts at a reenactment of a colonial village. I shouted in excitement when I dove into a deep lake off of a high cliff. I swung from a tire swing over a river. I stood at a mountain peak where I could see multiple states at once. It was a summer of amazing, unforgettable experiences!
That summer impacted me even today, because I love to travel—it’s fun making lifelong memories and share experiences together with loved ones. Teresa and I try to travel as often as we.
But one thing that I noticed is that whenever we do travel, it seems more fun to be at the end of the journey than the beginning. For example, as we traveled to the Queen City, we didn’t feel like we were “there” yet until we saw that amazing view of the Cincinnati skyline from the Kentucky side (and if you have never seen it, you are missing something special). I mean, driving around was fine and all that, but at the point of us seeing the skyline, our excitement kicked up and our level of enjoyment for the trip shot up. In our minds, we were there! Woo hoo!
Yet it’s so often the opposite when we are talking about the spiritual. It’s a miraculous work if God for anyone to be born again, and we should absolutely celebrate this great moment. But thinking about the journey of so many, here’s a passage to ponder:
A good name is better than fine perfume,Ecclesiastes 7:1
and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
Solomon gave us some words to think about as we make our pilgrimage through life. There are two things he focuses on and some serious points to keep in mind: to be both upright and to finish strong.
First, there’s value in keeping a good name. In other words, character matters. For Solomon to write this is a bit ironic considering his many public moral failures, but the truth he writes is the truth. Clearly he means that fame, fortune, and power mean nothing if the character of a person falls short. Yes, we are sinners, yes, we blow it, yes, we will do it again, but character building is a lifelong process, a consistent growthin Jesus. It takes humility, patience, and transparency, because when a person owns up to his or her flaws and relies on the power of the Holy Spirit, growth begins to take shape.
There’s value in finishing strong. Everyone celebrates a baby’s birth, but unless a life is extraordinary, few celebrate a person’s death. When it does, it’s because the life was well lived, and that most people would recognize that the person cared for others more than themselves. That person sought to become last, in many ways to die to self for the sake of Jesus. Some people in recent memory come to mind: there are plenty of examples, but Billy Graham and Ravi Zecharias are two that I can think of right now. These men lived for Christ, for a greater purpose than themselves, for the gospel. They gave us an example of what it means to both live well and finish strong, and there’s an eternal value in what they have done.
This passage hit me between the eyes as I think about my own life and ministry, but where are you at on this? On your life journey, did you start strong in Christ and are you letting Christ shape your character? Are you focusing on the good things of life, the things dedicated to the glory of Christ? Are you placing Jesus first? Even now?
The journey is great, but the end of the journey should always be an expression of God in you. A celebration. A sweet sacrifice for the glory of God. May the Lord place you on a journey that results in an eternal impact for His gospel!